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Author Gore Vidal Dead at 86


Author Gore Vidal

Author Gore Vidal
(October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012)
Photo By David Shankbone

Novelist, essayist, playwright, Gore Vidal died at home in Hollywood Hills on Tuesday at age 86. Born on October 3, 1925, at West Point, New York, he succumbed to complications from pneumonia.

Author of Myra Breckenridge, Lincoln, and Burr among 26 novels, 26 works of nonfiction, eight plays and 14 screenplays, he is also especially remembered for contributions to “Caligula” and “Ben Hur.”

A political liberal, he was known for his outspoken comments on candidates and officeholders, the rich and famous, anyone about whom he wished to make a comment alike, and challenge authority at every turn. He enraged mainstream critics and wrecked his political ambitions because he announced his homosexuality. For about 30 years, he lived with his partner, Howard Austen, in Ravello, Italy; he insisted that the success of their relationship was based on their not having sex together.

Gore”s father, Gene, a former West Point football star, and one of the founders of Trans World Airlines, served briefly in President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration and is supposed to have had an affair with Amelia Earhart. His mother, an actress and socialite, was said by her son to have had an affair with Clark Gable. His grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, was a blind U.S. senator from Oklahoma; Gore spent a great deal of time with his grandfather at his home in Washington, D.C.

Although his sexual proclivity kept him from public office, he was considered the greatest essayist of his time and a brilliant conversationalist. Some of his most famous quotations are, “Politics is just showbusiness for ugly people” and “It is not enough to succeed; others must fail.” Never failing to insult he considered worthy of it, he once insisted that the three saddest words in the English language were “Joyce Carol Oates” and the happiest were “I told you so.”

He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, but then enlisted in the Army and never went to college. His first book, the war novel Williwaw, was written while he was in the service and published when he was just 20. Widely read, he was considered a self-educated man.

After publishing some extremely explicit sexual scenes in his books, he was unable to use his own name as author. Then he wrote a trio of mystery novels in the 1950s under the pen name “Edgar Box” and also wrote fiction as “Katherine Everard” and “Cameron Kay.”

MSNBC Nightly News released a short video tribute to Gore Vidal…

Vidal shared Jacqueline Kennedy’s stepfather as his own; he became involved with the President Kennedy; later after John’s assassination, Vidal had a feud with Robert Kennedy and his day in the Kennedy limelight ended. He eventually called the Kennedys “the Holy Family” as his politics moved even further into Liberalism.

Burr, which was a National Book Award Fiction Finalist in 1974, convinced Michele Bachmann, by her own admission, to change from Democrat to Republican, but Newt Gingrich claimed it as a favorite book. Vidal identified Reagan’s wife, Nancy, as a social climber “born with a silver ladder in her hand.”

Vidal’s book of collected essays, United States: Essays 1952-1992, received the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Awards in November, 2009. He wrote two autobiographies, Palimpsest (1999) and Point to Point Navigation (2006).

Style,” Vidal once said, “is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

About Sue Freeman Culverhouse


Arts and Leisure




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